Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the high volume of questions received, we can’t guarantee that every letter will be published, but we’ll answer as many as we can. Published questions may be edited for length and clarity. Questions received after 3pm ET each Monday will appear the following week.
Q: Texas was a great race, and I agree with your article saying Texas should remain on the calendar. Maybe since IndyCar isn’t making any money from ticket sales at some races, it might consider doing a free race, open to the public. Draw the people in with a freebee, the track could sell all those extra beers and hot dogs, open the pits to everyone. When people actually see these cars in real life, they find out how exciting they are.
What is up at RLL? Bad qualifying at both races, except for Jack Harvey’s crash. Someone needs to coach Graham on how to qualify. He’s a great driver otherwise. And did you see Ferrucci’s drive of the day? Of course you did. Someone, please hire this guy! Maybe Ferrucci, Magnussen and Oriol Servia can start a substitute driver business. Super Subs for hire!
Andretti – what? I’m beginning to believe that Rossi won’t get a break until he leaves Andretti.
Last but not least, Jimmie Johnson. Even I was losing faith in him late last year, but he looked pretty good at Texas. Maybe there’s life in the old dog yet.
MP: RLL and Arrow McLaren SP are the two biggest surprises for me so far; I expected both organizations to take leaps forward with RLL being the one with the most ground to gain between the two. Felix Rosenqvist’s pole at Texas was an indicator of his renewed potential, but he sank like a rock at the start and despite some of his patented ballsy passes, Pato O’Ward didn’t really factor up front.
RLL’s been beset with a lot of misfortune, so I look forward to seeing how they fare at Long Beach. As for Rossi, it’s growing harder to disagree. Jimmie’s run was great to watch and I expect to see more on the remaining ovals.
Q: It was terrible to have the Texas race competing against March Madness. The NCAA tournament is in full swing and was being played in Fort Worth the same weekend. The early start time did not help the crowd. I hope the race is held again on a Saturday night in June, as it was pre-COVID and pre-All-Star race. I get that TMS may not want it so close to the All-Star race, but a Saturday night race would be a better draw. Maybe IndyCar could end the season at TMS?
MP: I’d welcome the return to a night race, but there’s no way in hell it should ever be considered to close the season unless it gets back to having proper crowds.
Q: I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, and aside from the HyVee QR code ad campaign, I think I can safely say that this year’s XPEL 375 at the Texas Motor Speedway was the worst advertised and worst locally covered IndyCar event ever held at TMS. I never saw one ad placed by TMS or IndyCar, and I never saw one story about it in any of the local non-NBC news or sports media, before or after the race. The post-race coverage was focused on the weekend’s NASCAR event. It was as if IndyCar didn’t even come to town.
If IndyCar decides to stay at TMS, it needs to at least make its presence known to potential fans in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. And if the drivers really want to stay here as much as they say, they need to commit to helping the publicity effort. There was not one driver appearance scheduled that I was aware of leading up to the race. Work together, folks, and get some butts back in the stands.
Lee Jackson, Garland, TX
MP: I saw this in the 7-Eleven two miles away from the track in Roanoke, Texas. That was the only IndyCar-related signage I came across outside TMS.
Q: Do you, or anyone else for that matter, actually believe that the racing fans in the great state of Texas have ever, are now, or ever will be IndyCar fans? I truly see very little evidence of that, now or in the past. Promotion here or there, it’s hard to breathe passion into a population that just doesn’t really get into that.
Werner Fritz, WI
MP: Yes. I’ve seen it at TMS, but I had more hair and fewer pounds when that was the case. Houston drew fans at certain times in its evolution. Cars and racing are a big part of the culture, so I don’t doubt the race can be saved. But IndyCar put on a few years of garbage races because of the problems caused by PJ1 and the lack of willingness to experiment with solutions to work around the problem. Nobody wants to show up to a movie or its sequels that have been box office failures. Now that IndyCar has something that will work at Texas, it’s time to see if its lapsed audience might want to return.
Q: In the article about fan attendance (or lack thereof) at Texas, you mentioned races where the track is rented and implied this isn’t always the case. Can you explain what this means and what the differences are between when a race is on a “rented” track vs the alternative?
Adam Joseph, Indianapolis, IN
MP: Most tracks pay a sanction fee to IndyCar, like a concert hall pays a band or comedian to come and perform, and then it’s on them to sell enough tickets, concessions, etc., to recoup their costs and make a profit. In select instances, IndyCar pays the track to rent the facility and takes it upon itself to sell tickets, food, etc., and earn a profit. At my home track in Monterey, for example, the county records show that it pays IndyCar $1.5 million to put on a race. The track actually loses money on the event, but covers the losses from its far more popular Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion event which rakes in a lot of money. IndyCar doesn’t have to concern itself on the financial side; it gets paid no matter what, but will the track want to sign an extension if it can’t generate a meaningful crowd and profit?
That’s why we see the series going nuts in the promotion of the Iowa event where it’s incumbent upon the series to recoup its investment in putting on the event with Hy-Vee since the track is no longer forking out the nice sanction fee. That’s why I noted the need for IndyCar to either treat future Texas races like it was a rental, or to do a full rental and apply the pressure on itself to ensure it promotes the heck out of the thing out of a fear of losing money if it fails.